Bucknell's Shepherd Interns Work in Struggling Communities

September 27, 2017

Whether supervising a child's first swim in a pool, listening to a frustrated client share stories of financial hardship, or drawing inspiration from a recovering addict's positive attitude, this year's Bucknell Shepherd interns found working with nonprofit agencies in distressed communities eye opening, humbling — and sometimes challenging.

But for Esmely Muñoz '20, Maren Burling '19, Sarah Rippel '20 and Jemmy Moreira '20, the eight-week summer program brought to life concepts they've explored in the classroom, grounding their studies of poverty and social justice in reality.

The internships were coordinated through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP). Bucknell is one of 23 SHECP participating schools. Interns, who pledge to live on $14 a day, work with poverty-fighting organizations around the nation. SHECP partners include public defenders' offices, food banks, clinics, housing authorities and other agencies serving struggling populations.

"My internship made all the things I've been learning about in my academic studies much more real," said Rippel, who was placed with LIFT, a Washington, D.C.-based agency that supports families trying to break the cycle of poverty. An alumna of the Social Justice Residential College, Rippel, who's majoring in women's & gender studies and Africana studies, worked with clients and updated a resource website. "I have a better understanding of how poverty can impact people," she added.

Burling, a Spanish and anthropology major, was partnered with N Street Village, an empowerment program for homeless women, also based in Washington, D.C., while Moreira, who's majoring in psychology and religious studies, led activities for immigrant children at the Sacred Heart Center in Richmond, Va. Muñoz spent the summer shadowing the coordinator of financial literacy at Family Scholar House, a residential program in Louisville, Ky., that helps single parents pursue college degrees.

"I've always been interested in financial literacy and working with underprivileged communities," said Muñoz, an accounting & financial management major. "It was a unique opportunity for me, as a [first-year student], to do actual work. It supplemented my readings on how poverty impacts women, especially."

Nina Banks, economics professor and academic coordinator for the Shepherd program at Bucknell, noted that internships are suitable for students from a variety of academic disciplines.

"Shepherd internships help students better understand structural factors that shape and circumscribe the lives of the poor, while also fostering empathy and compassion," she said. "Through living and daily interaction with low-income community members, our students gain firsthand knowledge about the myriad challenges that beset people living in poverty, and the ways that people working together can alleviate problems associated with poverty. The program has a wide range of placement sites that would benefit students in all majors."